The Temptation of Brazil ETFs

ETF Trends

For as much flack as these instruments frequently take, emerging markets exchange traded funds have, broadly speaking, been constructive from the long side since the start of February.

From Feb. 3 through March 21, the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: EEM) , the two largest emerging markets ETFs by assets, are each up at least 5%. Impressive considering the spate of disappointing economic data out of China over that time and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  [Emerging Markets Dividends Matter]

And to be fair, often maligned Brazil ETFs have been shining stars during the aforementioned time period. Since the start of February, the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (EWZ) , the largest ETF tracking Latin America’s largest economy, was up 9.6% heading into Monday’s session. That is good for the second-best performance among  Latin America single-country ETFs. EWZ has also topped the iShares Latin American 40 ETF (ILF) by 210 basis points since Feb. 3. [Mexico ETF is a Mess]

That is the good news, or part of it anyway. EWZ is still down 3.5% year-to-date and 22% over the past year, numbers that indicate way Brazilian equities still have some doubters. More importantly, EWZ’s technicals do not foster much confidence.[Brazil ETF's Ugly Chart]

“ Structurally Brazil is still in a very bad downtrend. This is one of the worst bear markets on the planet somehow even underperforming emerging markets as a group. Momentum, however, put in a higher low last month and price is getting close to confirming a bullish divergence. But based on the declining trendlines and downward-sloping moving averages, I would think that a squeeze here would be met with too much supply. I think if we do get a rally towards the mid-40s, all Brazil is really doing is delaying the inevitable. I would not be shorting right here, but would fade strength into the mid-40s,” said Eagle Bay Capital President J.C. Parets regarding EWZ’s weekly chart.

Still, some investors may find it hard to resist the temptation of EWZ. That is understandable, particularly when Petrobras (PBR) and Vale (VALE) are up 16% and 5.7%, respectively, in the past week. Various Petrobras and Vale securities combine for about 18% of EWZ’s weight, according to iShares data.

The best advice may be to view EWZ as a short-term trade until firm confirmation arrives that Brazilian stocks are ready to notch a legitimate medium-term rally.

“Short-term Brazil is sending us some mixed signals. The wedge after support broke in January broke to the downside before quickly reversing this week. As long as prices remain above 41, I think there could be a squeeze towards the mid-40s. Based on this potential and bullish divergence in momentum it is hard to be short right here. I’d prefer to either fade strength into 44-45 or short a break down back below the 50-day moving average,” added Parets.

EWZ Weekly Chart

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Chart Courtesy: J.C. Parets, Eagle Bay Capital

Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of EEM.

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